House Calls

WIN 2019

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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body and mind 18 { winter 2019 } h o u s e c a l l s T hanks to our brains' sizeable frontal lobe, humans posses a skill many animals lack: self-control, or the ability to resist temptation and subdue impulses in the present in order to achieve a goal in the future. And though we're all born with a certain aptitude for controlling our actions, often we opt for instant gratification, whether that's the taste of a rich dish, the comfort of the couch, or the burst of dopamine that comes from getting a "like" on social media. "Instant gratification is powerful and difficult to resist," says Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated psychiatrist John Gentry. "From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have always had a predisposition to want that quick reward, like eating the largest portion of the harvest or stealing food from a neighbor for survival." So how do we quiet those primal instincts to meet our long-term goals? Enter: willpower. "Willpower is the ability to self motivate, set goals, and see them through to completion," explains Dr. Gentry. And while a person's capacity for willpower is controlled in part by genetics ("Look at addiction rates within a family and you will often see a pattern," he notes as an example), it's also something we can improve upon over time. Here, Dr. Gentry shares a step-by-step plan for tapping into your willpower. But first, he says, there's a caveat: "We often develop unhealthy behaviors over years, and breaking them takes time and lots of effort. I compare it to working out: You can't walk into a gym and walk out with a six-pack. It takes months of hard work, but you have to start somewhere." ❶ Create a list of things you value. Write down both short- and long-term goals (consider your health, career ambitions, and relationships). ❷ Create a list of your daily behaviors. Include things like working, eating, exercising, spending time with your family, shopping, using social media, and watching TV. Next, log how much time you spend on each activity—both time spent thinking about it and active time engaging in it. ❸ Compare the two. Identify problematic behaviors or discrepancies between what you do from day to day and what you would like to achieve. ❹ Brainstorm new behaviors that can more effectively help you achieve your goals, such as going for a daily walk for weight loss or studying computer programming to start a new career. ❺ Periodically recheck and start from scratch. "Our goals and behaviors change over time," he notes. "Be patient with yourself." ❻ If you're stuck—or if you have an addiction—seek professional help. "Counseling can help reveal and treat potential barriers like depression or anxiety, which can make it much more challenging to make behavioral changes," he says. Tap into Your Willpower What makes some people Ironman triathletes and others couch potatoes? Here, we look at ways to harness self-control – B Y M O L L Y R A M S E Y

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